Florida’s newly minted Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday said he will return $2.4 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando — a move that kills the project and has set off a cacophony of bipartisan complaints from Capitol Hill lawmakers from the Sunshine State.
“If Florida would’ve had a governor who rejected President Eisenhower’s idea, we wouldn’t have an interstate system,” said Sen. Bill Nelson in Twitter post.
Rep. Kathy Castor, who represents Tampa, said Scott’s decision “demonstrates a devastating lack of vision for Florida and a lack of understanding of our economic situation.”
“The governor put his own rigid ideology ahead of the best interests of Florida’s businesses, workers and families,” Castor added. “High-speed rail is projected to create thousands and thousands of jobs in our state.”
House transportation committee Chairman John Mica, a Republican, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the governor’s move.
“This is a huge setback for the state of Florida, our transportation, economic development and important tourism industry,” Mica said.
Mica said he urged Scott to reconsider going forward with the rail project and to allow the private sector to assume the risk and any future costs.
Not all members of Congress from Florida condemned the governor’s action. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who took office last month, said his state simply cannot afford the rail project.
“Our state and country simply cannot continue spending borrowed money on every new idea that comes along,” Rubio said. “I appreciate Gov. Scott’s willingness to encourage this debate at the state level in Florida.”
Scott’s move comes a week after he proposed state spending cuts of $4.6 billion in the next budget and tax and fee cuts totaling about $2 billion.
High-speed rail is one of President Obama’s priorities, and his latest budget proposal calls for $53 billion over the next six years for projects across the country.